Mashpee Commons Liner Buildings

Mashpee, MA
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Over the past 20 years, Mashpee Commons’ pedestrian-oriented shopping district has grown incrementally around an outdated strip shopping center on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Developers Buff Chace and Douglas Storrs have created a two-sided street where the renovated shopping center previously faced a parking lot. They have built 24-foot-deep "liner" buildings at the edge of the parking lot and added parallel parking on both sides of the street. Two larger retail buildings at each end of the street serve as terminating vistas. Not only has the double-loaded street generated a significant increase in pedestrian activity, Storrs says, but the new buildings define the edges of an attractive, outdoor room.1

Storrs chose the shallow-depth buildings in part because he needed to preserve as many parking spaces as possible. But more importantly, the retail spaces, ranging in size from 350 to 425 square feet, are a good fit for “mom and pop stores,” Storrs says. “This is a critical part of the industry that has almost disappeared.” Twenty years ago, the retail market had a relatively even mix of national, regional, and small local merchants, he says. “Today it’s more like 85 percent nationals, 13 percent regionals, and 2 percent mom and pops.”2

The liner buildings were built for $97 per square foot, and that includes the cost of all interior improvements for the commercial tenants. Mashpee Commons covers this expense for local merchants only. The gross rent of $40 per square foot is currently the highest rate in Mashpee Commons. Nevertheless, all the stores have been leased and have attracted a wide variety of tenants, including a barber shop, a mobile phone store, an art gallery, and an antiques store.3

The diminutive buildings are a huge success. The series of 22- and 24-foot-deep buildings that Chace built along the edge of a parking lot on North Street have infused that street with pedestrian activity. The stores are one story high, with pitched roofs — just enough building to define the street. Because they are only one room deep and have entrances on both the front and the back, their doors can be kept open in the summer, bringing breezes through. This is a refreshing contrast to larger stores elsewhere that crank up the air conditioning and let expensively chilled air spill onto the sidewalk through open front doors in an effort to entice customers to come in. The small volumes of the liner stores (350 to 425 square feet) make excellent incubator spaces for beginning merchants, who may later expand into larger quarters.4

  • 1. New Urban News. Vol. 6 Number 1. 1/2001.
  • 2. New Urban News. Vol. 6 Number 1. 1/2001.
  • 3. New Urban News. Vol. 6 Number 1. 1/2001.
  • 4. New Urban News. Vol. 8 Number 6. 9/2003.
  • North Street and the Mashpee Liners

    North Street and the Mashpee Liners

    This view shows how the Mashpee Commons liner buildings interact well with the street while hiding required parking. Courtesy of Mashpee Commons.

  • Shallow Liners in Mashpee

    Shallow Liners in Mashpee

    This view shows the shallow depth of these liner buildings in Mashpee Commons. Courtesy of Mashpee Commons.

  • Rear entrance Mashpee Liner Buildings

    Rear entrance Mashpee Liner Buildings

    A view of the parking lot side of the Mashpee Liner Buildings. Courtesy of Mashpee Commons.

  • Mashpee Liner Buildings

    Mashpee Liner Buildings

    These shallow liner stores hide a parking lot and provide spaces for small businesses in Mashpee Commons. Courtesy of Douglas Storrs.

  • Mashpee Commons Plan

    Mashpee Commons Plan

    The plan for Mashpee Commons shows the liner buildings and their relation to the parking lot and North Street. Courtesy of Mashpee Commons.

Urbanism type: 
New Urbanism